Dec 31, 2020, Business, inside iteo

COV-ering 2020 Part 2: …and eat it too!

Kamila Figura Senior Product Designer

In our last article, we reflected on how the pandemic affected our approach towards our outbound operations and how we managed not only to maintain the workflow we had but even bring in more business. Now’s a time to review how we did internally, what has proven to be even more challenging than we expected.

What has already worked

So the projects are secured. Is that all it takes to maintain the flow and spirit of the company? Obviously not. Luckily enough on the technical side, we were prepared for a 100% home office based workflow. We have a solid set of tools we use for communication, for monitoring our progress, logging our work. We already build a trusting relationship within the company to know not to look over somebody’s shoulder to make sure to get the job done as expected. Working remotely when necessary was already one of our rules to maintain flexibility and promote the independence of individual employees. The office gave us a sense of community, a place where we could always find help when dealing with hard tasks, and obviously, a space where you could chit-chat over a coffee or solve a problem you dealt with during a conversation on a cigarette break. 

What has changed then?

 As it turned out, we worked harder at home, shielded from office distractions. Sometimes we worked longer hours, spending our commute time on finishing our task. We needed to take care of the work-life balance from a very new standpoint. It wasn’t anymore about hitting five o’clock, closing the laptop and heading home. Having clients from all the different time zones didn’t help. Emails kept coming during our free time. We needed to surpass the urge of not taking care of it straight away, feeling we were still in our offices, which at this point turned back to being our kitchen again.

Sense of comradery

Like every other company, we weren’t prepared for the social issue, therefore a lack of its existence in the former form. We had to deal with it on two fronts. 

The first group was the already working employees who have gotten used to spending a lot of work and moreover free time together. During the 9 years of iteo’s existence, we built strong friendships within the company. Unfortunately, the second group, new employees never got to feel our iteo spirit. We needed to maintain socially active within our teams and even more welcome for newcomers (pandemic or not, we are still hiring and growing ?). To do so we extended our dailies  (status calls with teams), making sure we see each other on the camera, even if it meant showing up in sweats or makeup-less. Pandemic invited us to the personal space of our teams (sometimes even clients!) bringing us closer. We started to organise online parties and tournaments, play games or met for regular chats in our virtual kitchen (online space to grab a coffee and talk with teammates and new people at the company, almost like we used to). For more active ones we organised online fitness training and secured personal swimming pool lanes. Winter came and now we are anxious to meet on the ski slopes, maintaining all the necessary precautions (of course :). Every team does its best to create a sense of community. To feel like one family again our CEO Jerzy organises by-weekly calls which allow us to see everyone and hear how the company is doing.

Even though some of us had it easier to focus at their homes, employees with kids had a real nut to crack. It is why our huge office remained open and all the rooms could be booked in advance for individuals so they would feel safe and had a place to focus at least a few times a week. 

The last thing to cope with would be the zoom fatigue effect. Back to back call meetings tend to tire us more than regular ones. We miss out on a lot of non-verbal communication and body expressions which used to help us stay focused. We even feel stressed when constantly looking at our face, because we see exactly what others see. When we present and no one interrupts we feel as if the internet connection got cut off and we fall out of our flows. Sounds familiar?

Socializing – checked! Anything left to improve?

So, have a place to grab a tea with other teammates, we know what to do if our kids jump on our laptops or our cats pass too often during our conference calls. Is there anything changed in the work-flow then, operating as a semi-remote type of the company? I’d say so. As mentioned in our article about the sales team coping, this year not only our representatives were the ones to frequently travel. At the beginning of the company’s existence, almost every individual at some point was engaged either in conducting workshops with our clients or being some sort of personal advisor. A few years later, from occasional trips, our whole departments like the UX Team managed to be solidly booked for a whole year of workshops. Obviously, they managed to move everything online (two days of intense workshops were replaced with multiple shorter sessions to keep the members focused) with the same effectiveness and solid deliverables. But nothing really replaces sitting next to your client and working with him hand in hand. That, and all the knowledge gaining from live seminars we missed this year, is something to look forward to in the post-pandemic time ? 

This year, most of our company moved to collaborative Figma shifting away from Sketch. It also showed how much we needed to stay connected and that the power of us lies in collaboration and knowledge sharing. It’s almost heartwarming to see other people working together in the same file, even subconsciously it brings us closer :).

Good job iteo!

A lot has changed this year. Many new faces on iteo’s zoom call, some old ones gone. New ideas have been adapted, old processes have been reviewed and updated. New adjustments to our daily life made, familiar old homes becoming our working spaces. Come January, more new, better things will happen once we draw the right conclusions from past experiences. And that we did, all this past year-round. Good job iteo!